The Bomb-itty of Errors

Previewed 24 April 2003, Opened 7 May 2003, Closed 12 July 2003 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London

Fusing classic theatre with the original live beats of an onstage DJ, The Bomb-itty of Errors in London is a unique and bold hip-hop spin on Shakespeare's farcical tale of mistaken identities

Inspired by Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, Bomb-itty of Errors inventively traces the chaotic family history of two sets of male twins who are put up for adoption by their struggling hip-hop parents. After the boy's father is arrested for small-time drug dealing, their mother falls apart and splits the boys up between two foster homes and disappears. The Bomb-itty of Errors follows the explosive confusion when the four boys meet up 20 years later. Because the two sets of twins look identical, wives, sisters, bill collectors, street hustlers, girlfriends, townspeople, jewellers and ladies of the night are thrown into a tailspin of total confusion with outrageous results.

Bomb-itty of Errors was originally created in 1998 as a senior theatre project at New York University, but quickly went on to become a huge critical success and audience pleaser Off-Broadway at New York's 45 Bleeker Theatre. Since then the show has knocked both audiences and critics off their feet and swept awards in New York City, Florida, Chicago and Edinburgh.

This frenetically paced romp is performed by the US cast who performed in Edinburgh and won the Stage Award for Best Ensemble: "Ranney", Chris Edwards, Joe Hernandez-Kolski and Charles Anthony Burks play all 16 roles and are supported by DJ and composer Kevin Shand, creating the music live onstage. Musical comedy by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, GQ and Erik Weiner, inspired by Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors. Directed and developed by Andy Goldberg.

"As an idea it sounds like a desperate attempt by a teacher to big up the Bard for the kids. But this former New York University thesis project has evolved into an off-Broadway and Edinburgh Fringe hit and there is now hope for it to do the same in the West End... Four actors (augmented by a DJ on the decks and as a human beatbox) tell the tale as rapping quick-change artists who switch from men to women and sometimes something in between. Characters range from a crudely caricatured Jewish jeweller to a Rastafarian quack doctor. Charles Anthony Burks is a particular treat as a princessy prostitute, but the show is stolen by Chris Edwards's deliciously ditsy Luciana, the dumbest of blondes with a Miss Piggy voice. This, as you may have gathered, is not a subtle show. Despite the odd sly line, Andrew Goldberg's production trades on stereotypes, burly men in drag, crude slapstick and genial vulgarity. Panto has come early and it's got a hip-hop beat. The cast deliver it all with infectious energy, which compensates for some clunky padding used to make the show a two-hour event plus interval when it ought to be a 90-minute rollercoaster ride. In the end the case for the Bard being the rapper's best friend, with shared interests in word play, free-flowing rhythms, alliteration and allusion, isn't proven here. Bomb-itty's persistent doggerel just isn't in the same league. But if the thought of Eminem in a Carry On movie appeals, you'll have a bass-heavy blast. The Times

"If like me you know little about hip hop and thought Puff Daddy was an asthma inhaler for the elderly, then this rap show from New York will seem pretty resistible. Don't be put off, though. It's phenomenally fresh and funky. The attitude, irreverence and the lack of actors in tights puts Shakespeare in a totally new light. In fact, Bard-rap could be the new thing judging by the riotous reception this street version of The Comedy of Errors got on the opening night. The four performers re-style Elizabethan blank verse (the Tudors' form of rap) into an evening of boof-boof bass rhythms and rhyme. There's an onstage DJ scratching and grooving while the all-male cast tell the story of mistaken identity between two sets of identical twins in ancient Ephesus. But the genius of the piece is to have stuck loyally to the plot, happily chucking the odd Shakespearean 'thee' and 'thou' into the linguistic mix... The cast work like demons, too. Chris Edwards is a total star hilariously trebling up as Dromio, a psycho cop, and a randy sister. Charles Anthony Burks and Ranney are terrific - and I especially liked Joe Hernandez-Kolski as a very Jewish merchant who at one point segues into a kosher-rap Fiddler On The Roof. It's fast, furious and directed with real zing by Andrew Goldberg on a panto set." The Daily Express

"Shakespeare - who had his ear and eye on contemporary trends and was no slouch when it came to poor puns, rude rhymes and silly slapstick - would doubtless have been highly entertained by the four lads in trainers and baggy clothes who have lifted his plot wholesale (just as he did). It's that preposterous one involving two sets of identical twins and the confusion and mistaken identity which ensue when they find themselves in the same town. The fabulously talented crossdressing Bomb-itty boys bound breathlessly in and out of frocks and wigs to play every part. The high-octane rap can be wryly witty ('How can she not hear me when I do an aside?') and at once sends up and celebrates Shakespeare's style. It's not an approach that would work for Hamlet, but it blasts fresh life into an old comedy." The Mail on Sunday

The Bomb-itty of Errors in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 24 April 2003, opened on 7 May 2003 and closed on 12 July 2003